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Army Chief: Areas outside Gampaha, too, at risk

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Alleged delay in responding to corona alert under probe

Authorities probing devastating coronavirus eruption at the Brandix apparel factory are inquiring into the alleged delay on the part of the Minuwangoda MOH Office to respond after Brandix in late September brought to its notice an unusual number of workers falling sick.

The Island 

learns that the delay was partly due to the transfer of the MoH shortly before the coronavirus eruption. However, MoH Dompe had been directed to oversee Minuwangoda, in addition to those already assigned for duties at Minuwangoda.

Sources said that all aspects were being inquired into including possible oversights. It was a collective failure on the part of the local apparatus rather than an individual, they added.

However, they hadn’t been able to find out how a coronavirus eruption took place at the Brandix facility, sources said.

 Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media early this week that it would be a very difficult task to identify who had got infected first among the Brandix workers.

The number of infections could be several thousand although approximately 1,100 persons had tested positive so far, vast majority of them Brandix employees. Police headquarters said that the person who supplied food to the Minuwangoda police station, too, had tested positive. The police identified his son as a Brandix worker. Later, nearly 100 officers and men attached to Minuwangoda police had been subjected to RT PCR tests while services were suspended, temporarily.

Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva appearing on Derana yesterday morning said that only 48 Sri Lankans working at Brandix facility in India had been brought back although there were reports of 60 returnees. Responding to Derana anchor, Chatura Alwis, the Army Chief, who is also in charge of Covid Task Force, said that all of them had been quarantined at a hotel in Kosgoda and made to undergo to RT -PCR tests. Asked who conducted the tests, Lt. Gen. Silva said that the procedures were followed though he couldn’t respond to that query. Subsequently, Chathura Alwis, having checked with Brandix revealed that tests had been conducted by Durdens Hospital.

 The Army Chief said that as detections had been made in many areas outside the Gampaha District, those living in areas outside the high risk region covered by continuing police curfew should be cautious. Those living in areas outside Gampaha too faced serious risk, the Army Chief warned. So far, the curfew covered only the Gampaha District.

On Wednesday night, a person while being moved by the Army to a quarantine facility died of a heart attack.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana told Derana some of those high risk groups were yet to voluntarily submit themselves for RT PCR tests. (SF)

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Majority of 300 luxury vehicles to be released

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… some shipped in without opening LCs, EU wants restrictions abolished

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The majority of the luxury vehicles imported by special permit holders in contravention of the import ban imposed by the government in view of precarious economic situation caused by corona first wave are likely to be released subject to penalties.

Well informed sources said that those vehicles shipped in without even opening LCs would be released. Among the violators were many government servants.

Sources said that vehicles brought in without opening LCs were likely to be confiscated.

“We have categorised over 300 vehicles, including BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Audis into two groups. Customs are now in the process of evaluating individual cases,” a high ranking state official said.

The government announced a ban on vehicle imports to arrest the depletion of foreign reserves. Sources acknowledged that at the time the vehicles

arrived in Sri Lanka the second corona wave hadn’t erupted. The situation was far worse now and further deteriorating, they said, adding that the Customs were being inundated with requests for releasing vehicles on sympathetic grounds.

Controversy surrounds the failure on the part of the government to strictly implement the import ban in view of the sharp drop in state revenue due to the pandemic.

Recently, the EU demanded that Sri Lanka immediately lift import ban or face the consequences. The EU issued the warning in talks with government representatives. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained the circumstances that compelled the government to impose import restrictions. The EU sought an explanation as to when the ban would be lifted. The Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Gunawardena as having explained to the EU the challenges Sri Lanka economy was facing amidst the dwindling foreign currency reserve situation due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenue induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The minister said that the import restrictions were being reviewed.

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Nearly 74,000 persons under home quarantine

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Close to 74,000 people belonging to 27,974 families had been placed under home quarantine, Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said on Wednesday (25).

He said that the number of cases from the Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda clusters had increased to 17,436 with 458 persons had tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Two wards of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura were temporarily closed on Wednesday after two pregnant women admitted there tested COVID-19 positive.

The two women are from Atalugama, which has been declared an isolated area. During the last few days close to half of the COVID-19 patients detected in Colombo District are from Atalugama.

The two women have been sent to Neville Fernando Hospital, Malabe. The patients and staff in Wards 3 and 4 at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital are now under quarantine. Their family members too have been asked to undergone self-quarantine.

The Police had arrested 61 persons who had violated quarantine laws within the 24 hours that ended at 8 am yesterday, Police spokesman, DIG Ajith Rohana said, adding that they had been arrested for not wearing masks or for not maintaining physical distancing. With those altogether 688 persons had been arrested for violating quarantine laws from October 30, he said.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that apart from Welikada, the spread of COVID-19 had been controlled at other prisons. COVID-19 cases had been reported from six prisons, he added.

“We are conducting PCR tests and hope that the situation in Welikada too would be brought under control. Twenty four new cases were detected from prisons on November 24 and from October 04, we have identified 708 cases within the prison system.”

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Severity of impact of second wave on economy could be far worse than anticipated – CBSL

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatte

The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 could be severer on the economic growth than previously anticipated, Director of Economic Research at the Central Bank Dr. Chandranath Amarasekara said yesterday (26).

Dr. Amarasekera said so responding to a query by The Island at a CBSL media briefing. The top official said that an assessment couldn’t be made yet as the second wave was continuing.

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